As a mum, wherever you are, there’s a lot of pressure to breastfeed. In a way, this is a welcome turnaround from a mid-20th century predilection for formula milk: it speaks of belief in the capacity of women’s bodies over that of science. But it can also be taken too far, because there are many reasons why a woman does not — or can’t — breastfeed, and the last thing a new mother needs, with little sleep and a squalling infant, is more pressure put on her shoulders.
That being said, for reasons purely of economic parsimony and laziness, I am a major proponent of breastfeeding. There’s no washing up, there’s no sterilising, there’s no 3am realisation that you forgot to buy formula. When your child needs more, he or she will take more. You don’t need to worry about which brand to buy. If the options are between a tin of formula at Dh80 a pop, 10 minutes spent submerging a plastic bottle in boiling water (that cannot be good for it, mind), your baby rejecting that bottle, 10 minutes submerging a different bottle in boiling water, finally feeding your (by now screaming) child, and then diligently dismembering the bottle and washing it all up with a specialised and overpriced scrubber, versus straightforward breastfeeding — well, let’s just say the path of least resistance is strewn with more time to watch Stephen Colbert on YouTube.
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Some people say they don’t want to feel like a cow — why would you not want to be a cow? Cows stand around all day long munching grass, having a little wander, giving a little milk, munching a little more grass. That’s not a bad life. Imagine this: you’ve got a toddler running around, a husband who also wants attention, housekeeping that needs doing and perhaps also a job … but what can you do? You have to sit in a comfy armchair and look at Instagram. You are feeding your progeny. Like a cow. A cow with an iPhone.
It’s true, of course, that breastfeeding can be hard. It hurts like anything in the beginning. In England they tell you to keep cold cabbage in the fridge as a balm; I tried this and felt both ridiculous and somehow hoodwinked. There’s other things they don’t tell you: you develop a preferential side. Your body takes a slight hit. But there’s an amazing power to it, and a closeness you develop with your child — however you are feeding them, I should add. Even in the middle of the night, tired in the dark, alone with that little of bundle of life — don’t tell the weaker half of the population (and by this I mean the men), but it’s a joy like no other.